Selling a Seattle-area home this spring? Here's what you need to … – The Seattle Times

It’s that colorful time of year. As the first butter-yellow crocuses peek above chocolate-brown mulch, homeowners head back from paint stores with indigo and bird’s egg blue samples — and black if they are in the know. Then royal blue-and-white metal “For Sale” signs sprout in the green grass of front yards announcing the arrival of the spring housing market.
What is it about home selling and spring? The months when sellers get the highest price for their homes are April, May and June, according to ATTOM Data Solutions. What sellers have going for them this spring is that there aren’t a lot of houses for sale. At the end of February, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported only 1.7 months of supply across the 26 counties the NWMLS tracks. A balanced market is more like four to six months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The headwind for sellers is that there aren’t a lot of qualified buyers out there in these days of economic uncertainty and interest rates that have been in the 6% range.
“In Seattle, you can’t just throw up a for sale sign like you could in the past,” says Amanda Pendleton, home trends expert at Zillow. “It took five days for a listing to sell a year ago — now it’s 35 days.”
“This spring is cooler than either of the last two by far,” says Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker, and he isn’t talking about the weather.Sellers need to be prepared to do the work to sell their house that, frankly, was not so necessary the last couple of springs.”
To figure out what you need to know, we talked to economists, real estate agents, trend experts and sellers. Here’s what it takes to sell a home in Western Washington this spring.
Agents and economists agree that pricing a home correctly — read: not too high — is key to selling now because buyers are more price sensitive than they were a year ago.
“The last couple of years, multiple-offer situations were so common that sellers could count on bidding wars that basically set an auction price for houses,” Tucker says. “But now when priced aggressively, there is substantial risk that buyers will just say ‘no.’ ”
A big factor controlling how much you can get for your house and how fast it will sell is where you live. There’s surprising variability. Mercer Island is ice cold. According to Redfin, in February, Mercer Island home prices were down 25.1% compared to one year ago and houses took 56 days to sell.
West Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish and Queen Anne are also places where homes are sitting on the market. One reason, according to Tucker, is tech layoffs. “I think that has had and will have an impact on homebuying demand in these expensive neighborhoods.”
Suburban areas adjacent to spendy spots have started to sell fast. In February, Tucker says homes in Bothell near Canyon Park, Kent, including downtown, and the East Renton Highlands had pending sales in around five days. Home prices were up in Lake Forest Park and Kirkland year over year.
In March, a 1968 rambler in the Kingsgate neighborhood of Kirkland sold in one day for $1.07 million, $50,000 more than the asking price. The sellers’ real estate agent Cara Erdman, says she studied six months of comps to get the right listing price. She also credits the sellers for modernizing the house by replacing the 1960s popcorn ceiling.
In the South Seattle neighborhood of Beacon Hill, Dave Price and Heidi DeAndrade have been working for months to get their midcentury modern home painted, drywalled and landscaped in preparation for sale.
The couple plans to move to San Diego, at least temporarily, to launch Chapter 3 of their lives as empty nesters. “Seattle is changing, it doesn’t feel the same,” DeAndrade says. “I want to be somewhere I feel safer and I like the sunshine.”
On this day in early March, their real estate agent, Marlow Harris of Seattle Dream Homes, is touring the four-bedroom home which is perched on a ridge. The view of Mount Rainier from the living room competes with Price’s collection of eye-popping modern furniture and South Seas art.
“You know I love this,” Harris says, pointing to a 4-foot-high carved Tiki statue standing guard at the entryway. When Price shows the agent his collection of velvet paintings and love seats covered with technicolor fabric, she likes them too. “But they have to go,” Harris says.
Price owns a design company that furnishes groovy museum events and green rooms for rock bands. While the Rolling Stones and REM appreciated Price’s bubble chairs and swoopy sofas, Harris says that’s not the way to present a house for sale. To attract more buyers, Harris will stage the home in a neutral style with just a few of Price’s pieces for spice.
Price gets it. “Accentuate the house and not the furniture. That will be cleaner.”
OK sellers, are you still on board? Time to get busy. Every flaw in your home is magnified by buyers, according to Harris. So, fix those little things like cracked switch plates, broken light globes and scuffed baseboards. Prune plants in the front yard, put down mulch and spring for hanging baskets of colorful annuals. “It’s like a first date, put some lipstick on,” Harris advises.
A fresh coat of interior paint gives sellers one of the best returns on investment, according to trend expert Pendleton. Especially if they get the colors right.
Zillow researched with buyers and prospective buyers, showing them rooms painted different colors. What appealed to most buyers was white in the kitchen, white tinged with gray in the living room, sky blue in the bathroom and dark blue, almost navy, in the bedroom.
And what about that ubiquitous red wall in the dining room?
“You’ve got to paint that,” says Pendleton. “Will one buyer love the red wall? Yes. But the majority will wish it was another color.”
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were ahead of their time in 1966 when they wrote a song that advised painting front doors black. That’s the “it” look for entryways in 2023. “We’ve done research on front door paint colors,” says Pendleton. “A [house with a] black front door sells for $6,500 more than similar homes with another door color.”
One local example: A classic gabled 1937 home in Magnolia beat the odds despite being in a slow-to-sell neighborhood and a high price point. The seller’s agents, Angie Carroll and Jenni Sandmeyer with Windermere, confirm that the home and its black front door went pending in seven days for north of $4 million.
Since the pandemic surfaced in 2020, so many people in greater Seattle are working from home that there’s increased demand for homes with at least three bedrooms. “That happened to me,” says economist Tucker, who turned a bedroom into an office in his West Seattle home. “Even young and first-time buyers now want more than two bedrooms.”
Back at Price and DeAndrade’s home on Beacon Hill, there’s a home office tucked into a corner of the finished basement. There’s also almost a second kitchen on this lower level — all it lacks is a refrigerator. Harris plans to nab one on Craigslist, and voilà! The house will have a space that could potentially qualify as an attached dwelling unit because there’s a bedroom and bathroom in the basement.
“What’s really changed is how people shop. It’s online,” says Pendleton. “People swipe until something catches their eye. For online curb appeal, invest in professional photography [and] drone photography, and consider staging.”
Pendleton also recommends springing for a 3D virtual tour. “Homes with 3D tours got 68% more views and 80% more saves on Zillow.”
When your home is first listed, Harris suggests that sellers get the heck out of Dodge. “It’s so intense the first couple of days, we’ll be showing the house every half-hour. Take a trip, or go stay with a friend for a few days.”
This advice applies to Price and DeAndrade and their menagerie: two dogs, one cat and a friendly bearded dragon named Sanchez. In those critical days when the house hits the market, Harris says they need to go away and take their pets. The big idea is to make it look and smell like no actual humans are living in the house.
“You can’t sell your house if it smells like fried meat. Or cruciferous vegetables,” Harris says. “It needs to smell like flowers.”
Steven Bourassa, the director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington, doesn’t think that this is a good time to sell a house in Western Washington.
“If you don’t need to sell the house, rent it until mortgage rates go down,” Bourassa says. “You probably have a low rate on your current house and could cover the mortgage with the rent.” Bourassa believes interest rates will go down once inflation is tamed, which will perk up the housing market.
DeAndrade points out that life doesn’t always happen in concert with housing peaks. “We couldn’t sell earlier because our kids weren’t fully independent.”
Now that she and Price are empty nesters, the couple has lots of adventures in mind. They plan to move into a home Price inherited in San Diego and consider their mortgage-and-kid-free options.
“If we sell sooner rather than later, this will be the summer we get our lives set up,” Price says. “It’s a coming-of-age thing!”
It’s going to be a lot of hard work. Price is OK with that and offers this parting advice for sellers. “You know, you are going to have to do a lot of this stuff anyway. Think of it as getting a jump on your move.”
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


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